Sam and Adam … and DJ Dawson!

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Maybe you saw the selfie this weekend that showed out pop stars Adam Lambert and Sam Smith faux-canoodling at an NYC hot-spot. Only it wasn’t truly a selfie, because when Lambert re-tweeted it, he cropped out the cutest one of the bunch — the guy who initially posted it: DJ Dawson. Hey, it’s OK if you wanna crop out people (I wish I could crop people out of my life) but props to the DJ! And what do you make of such self-promotion anyway?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Black starts a tweet slapfight with Sam Smith… and totally misses the point

JIMMY NAPES, SAM SMITH

You’ve probably seen by now the “oh no you betta don’t!” Twitter shaming of Sam Smith, the out pop star who won an Oscar on Sunday night for best song for “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre. In case you didn’t, during his acceptance speech, he said that he heard Ian McKellen say that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar. (That is patently incorrect, although not entirely wrong in the context of actors who were out when they won.) He then went on to say this: “If that’s the case, even if it isn’t the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day.”

Even though he was wrong on the facts, consider that sentiment: Unity, openness, pride. Here he was, taking his 45 seconds of impromptu acceptance to speak out about acceptance. A misstep, but his heart was in the right place.

Only Dustin Lance Black was having none of it.

He’s the out screenwriter who won an Oscar for Milk a few years ago. And even before Black, there was Bill Condon who won for writing Gods & Monsters. And songwriting Oscars are full of them: Howard Ashman won for writing several Disney songs as did Elton John, and Stephen Sondheim has the gold boy as well. There are many. But Black couldn’t take Smith at his sentiment, rather than his historical accuracy. Instead, he put on his Bitter Queen Hat and sent out this passive-aggressive tweet: “If you have no idea who I am it may be time to stop texting my fiance.” He then linked to his own Oscar acceptance speech.

A few days ago, Black dismissed the twitter feud as “a joke.” As a professional writer, he should have a better sense for what’s funny. Because instead of doing as Sam Smith was saying, we not only didn’t stand arm-in-arm with our straight allies, but we fed on each other. None of the other Twitter slogs who shamed Smith came out so forcefully against McKellen when he made the comment in a magazine some months back, because that missed the point. Yes, some actors have won Oscars who we now know are gay. But what is the barrier to that? Why can’t Smith be out and proud and not be attacked by other gay people for exhorting acceptance? Can’t we just say how hot Sam Smith is and be done with it?

Oh, and Dustin — tell your fiance there’s a “block” function on his smartphone if he doesn’t want tweets from Sam Smith.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Spotlight,’ ‘Mad Max’ big winners at the Oscars

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Abuse took center stage at the 88th Academy Awards last night. Spotlight, which won the DFW Film Critics Association’s top honor (and was my No. 2 film of 2015) — and was about the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal — won best picture and original screenplay, while Brie Larson won best actress for Room, playing a teenager kidnapped and raped for seven years. And the big winner of the night was Mad Max: Fury Road, a feminist futuristic action film the dealt powerfully with women held as sex slaves. It won six of its ten nominations (film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, production design, costume design, makeup).

The Revenant took three Oscars, all historic in their way. Alejandro Inarritu repeated as best director (he won for Birdman last year), becoming only the third director to win consecutive awards, and the third consecutive Mexican-born winner. His cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, won his third consecutive Oscar (a first) and Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar after six failed nominations in the past.

Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress as the wife of a transgender pioneer in The Danish Girl. The Big Short won for best adapted screenplay. Ennio Morricone won his first-ever competitive Oscar for his score to The Hateful Eight.

The huge upset of the evening was in supporting actor, which went to Mark Rylance as a pawn in international intrigue in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Sylvester Stallone was hotly expected to win his first Oscar for his heartbreaking performance as Rocky Balboa in Creed.

But there were other upsets as well, including best song to “Writing’s On the Wall” from Spectre, composed by out gay man Sam Smith. (Smith incorrectly said he was the first openly gay Oscar winner, but the sentiment was genuine). And Ex Machina, the contemplative sci-fi drama, beat out tough competition to take best visual effects.

Other winners: Inside Out (animated feature), Bear Story (animated short), Son of Saul (foreign language film), Stutterer (live action short), Amy (documentary feature) and A Girl in the River (documentary short).

Chris Rock, a former Oscar host, masterfully addressed the #OscarsSoWhite issue in his monologue and bits.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

FILM REVIEW: ‘The Revenant’

the-revenant-re_r709_mktg_006-088594_rgbWe’ve reached a level of technology where, if something can be imagined, folks in Hollywood can make it happen. The domination of digital effects, in the wrong hands, could result in technicians rather than artists overwhelming our moviegoing experience. (Let’s face it: That’s what superhero movies are.) But when you have a director like Alejandro G. Inarritu in control, the artistry remains intact. To steal from a superhero movie (by way of the Enlightenment), with great power comes great responsibility. And oh, what power is wrought by The Revenant.

The victory of vision with a purpose is evident in almost every frame of this towering yet intimate epic. In the 1830s, trappers in the mountainous Midwest are dealing with Native American raiders. Maybe the trappers are the bad guys, invading sacred lands; maybe the Indians are, ambushing men with a fusillade of arrows while the sit unarmed in camp. Who is right isn’t the point; there’s conflict, and everyone is on edge, from the wily and self-interested trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, in what may be the year’s best performance) to the methodical family man Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who lived with Indians (his teenaged son is on the safari with the white men) and understands the value of empathy. When Hugh is attacked by a bear — in what is the film’s most eye-popping and harrowing scene, one of the most viscerally arresting ever filmed — his survival puzzles his colleagues. Some (Fitzgerald most vocally) want to abandon him; the leader, though, believes he needs to be cared for until he dies … which should be soon.

But Glass doesn’t die that easy. He lives on, to the consternation of Fitzgerald, who plans to speed up nature … and commit heinous crimes in the process.

The Revenant is like Moby-Dick on land, a revenge movie about Glass’ determination not to be left for dead, and to take his pound of flesh from those who would deny him his humanity. For more than two and a half hours, Inarritu drags us through the snowy crags of the Rockies, through starvation, murder, animal attacks, manhunters and the interpersonal dynamics of post-Colonial America with a keenness and insight that feels continually authentic. That’s quite a feat, especially considering Inarritu’s last film, the Oscar-winning Birdman, was set in the constricting tableau of a Broadway theater, with only occasional forays down city streets in what appeared to be one continuous shot. His cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezski, opens up the visuals of The Revenant in staggering ways, doing for the cold American frontier what Freddie Young did for desert vistas in Lawrence of Arabia. He should be coasting toward his third Oscar (he also shot Gravity) in as many years.

The performances are just as essential in convincing us, with DiCaprio conveying mostly with his eyes and body (he speaks only a handful of lines in the film) and Hardy, or course, the scariest villain this side of the Sith. The Revenant is the year’s most anguished masterpiece — Hollywood filmmaking at its very best.

Opens in wide release Friday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DFW Film Critics declare ‘Spotlight’ the best picture of the year

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‘Spotlight’ won best picture

The Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards and Screen Actors Guild have all already weighed in on their votes for the best in film in 2015, and not it’s the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association‘s turn, a group of 31 print, broadcast and online critics (including me) across the region. This morning, the group named Spotlight — about the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal uncovered by the Boston Globe — best picture of 2015, and also won for its screenplay, but The Revenant took the most awards — four.

Unlike many critics’ groups, DFW actually lists runners-up in order, making the top 10 films: 2.The Revenant, 3. Carol, 4. Sicario, 5. Mad Max: Fury Road6. The Big Short, 7. The Martian, 8. Room, 9. The Danish Girl and 10. Brooklyn.

Oak-Cliff-Film-FestivalThe Russell Smith Award, named in honor of the late gay Dallas Morning News film critic, who succumbed to AIDS nearly 20 years ago, recognized cutting edge independent films, for which Russell was a tireless champion. This year’s recipient was Tangerine, the guerrilla-made comedy about two transgender prostitutes on the streets of L.A. one Christmas.

Best actor was awarded to Leonardo DiCaprio, for his nearly wordless performance as a man who swears revenge after a bear attack in The Revenant. The film also won Alejandro G. Inarritu best director honors; Inarritu won last year as well for Birdman, which also won the best picture Oscar. Runners-up for best actor were Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne as a transgender woman in The Danish Girl; Matt Damon for The Martian; and Johnny Depp for Black Mass.

Runners-up for best director were Thomas McCarthy, who helmed Spotlight; George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road; Todd Haynes for Carol; and Dennis Villeneuve for Sicario.

Best actress went to Brie Larson as a fierce mother in Room; she was followed by Cate Blanchett as a lesbian in the 1950s for Carol; Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant in Brooklyn; Charlotte Rampling as a wife discovering her husband’s past in 45 Years; and Carey Mulligan playing a Suffragette.

Supporting winners are actress Rooney Mara, as a young shopgirl discovering she is gay in Carol and Paul Dano as a young Brian Wilson in Love and Mercy. Runners-up for supporting actress were Alicia Vikander (for Ex Machina and The Danish Girl) , Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs; and Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight; for supporting actor: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies; Tom Hardy for The Revenant; Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation; and Benicio del Toro for Sicario.

Other winners include best foreign language film, Son of Saul; best animated feature, Inside Out; best documentary, Amy; and best cinematography and best score, both to The Revenant.

Association president Todd Jorgensen announced that this year’s awards were being dedicated to former DMN film critic Phillip Wuntch, who died in October.

The Academy Award nominations will be announced in late mid-January. My own top 10 list will come out on Christmas Day. Until then, Friday — our annual Hollywood Edition — will profile some likely nominees, and review more than half a dozen films being released for awards consideration in the coming weeks, including Carol, The Danish Girl, The Big Short and, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We also have an interview with the gay director of Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What to expect on the awards list this season

DanishGirl_11440701241The National Board of Review, the first group to release its picks for the best films of the year, will announce its Top 10 later this week (with the Golden Globe nomination on its heels Dec. 10), so I decided to preview what you can probably expect to see. I haven’t screened all of these films yet, so these aren’t necessarily my votes (though they are informed by what seems good that I have seen); they are, rather, what the groundswell seems to be in a few of the major categories. I limit my list to 10 possible nominees in each category.

Picture/director: Spotlight; The Danish Girl; Carol; Bridge of Spies; The Martian; The Walk; The Revenant; The Hateful Eight; Joy.

Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl; Tom Hardy, Legend; Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw; Mark Ruffalo, Infinite Polar Bear; Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies; Matt Damon, The Martian; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk. Not on the list: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, a heavily-pushed performance that I felt never caught fire and carried the picture; anyone from Spotlight (all the cast members have been lumped in the supporting category); Michael Caine, Youth (though he really should be).

Supporting actor: Liev Schreiber and Michael Keaton, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Tom Hardy, The Revenant; Michael Shannon, 99 Homes; Paul Giamatti, Straight Outta Compton; Harvey Keitel, Youth; Sylvester Stallone, Creed; Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation; Benicio del Toro, Sicario.Not on the list (nut should be): Rick Springfield, Ricki and the Flash.

Actress: Lily Tomlin, Grandma; Cate Blanchett, Carol; Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold; Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van; Brie Larson, Room; Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash; Julianne Moore, Freeheld; Amy Schumer, Trainwreck; Soirse Ronan, Brooklyn; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy.

Supporting actress: Rooney Mara, Carol; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight (or Anomalisa); Joan Allen, Room; Laura Dern, 99 Homes; Virginia Madsen, Joy; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oscar recap: The good, the bird and the ugly

OscarsAs expected, Birdman won the majority of the  big awards Sunday, taking best picture, director and original screenplay but there were some other notable results. as well.

For the second year in a row, a gay host Neil Patrick Harris (following Ellen DeGeneres) led the festivities. Unlike Ellen, NPH seemed not to read the audience well and many jokes bombed following a great opening number.

The best actress winner for Still Alice,  Julianne Moore, 54, became the first actress in history to win the leading actress Oscar while in her 50s. She also can claim another distinction: She won her Oscar directed by two gay men, who got their start in hardcore gay porn.

The adapted screenplay award went The Imitation Game about gay mathematician Alan Turing. The winning screenwriter, Graham Moore, gave a passionate speech about growing up “different” that read like an It Gets Better video … Though after he said he was not himself gay.  Hmmm.

Lesbian filmmaker Laura Poitras, who focused not just on Edward Snowden but gay journalist Glenn Greenwald, took the best documentary feature award for Citizenfour.

Foxcatcher, which implied a strange, homoerotic obsession by the murderous John DuPont (best actor loser Steve Carell),  walked away with no wins in five nominations, including a miss for the putty noses used to transform the actors.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Come to the Magnolia tonight and see me predict the Oscars

OscarsNow, I am the first to admit that I do not always accurately predict all 24 Oscar categories every year. Take last year — I only got 23 right. You heard me. I have seen virtually every nominated film, and I will be weighing in on the likely winners as part of a panel discussion at the Magnolia Theatre tonight (Monday), starting at 7 p.m. It’s free, and you’re all invited to see me gues…. I mean, predict the outcome of the gay Super Bowl this Sunday. There will even be some trivia and maybe some giveaways…. And come ready to stump me with your trivia questions!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Preview: Oscar nominations are tomorrow, and here are my predictions

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Birdman is a hotly fancied contender

The Golden Globes are barely cold (well, they are probably always cold) and it’s already time for the Oscar nominations, which will be announced tomorrow. There are always surprise snubs and inclusions, but if you’re up for an office pool, here’s my educated prediction for the major categories. Just don’t blame me if you lose $5.

Picture. The rules now permit from six to ten nominations, with nine being the usual figure, so here are a list of a dozen films that should make up the final list: Birdman; Boyhood; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Imitation Game; Selma; The Theory of Everything; American Sniper; Gone Girl; Whiplash; Unbroken; Foxcatcher; Wild.

Director: Best director will surely be culled from the best picture finalists, so look for some of these directors match their films’ nominations. Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman; Richard Linklater, Boyhood; Wes Anderson, Budapest; Ava DuVernay, Selma; Damien Chazelle, Whiplash; Morten Tyldum, Imitation; James Marsh, Theory; David Fincher, Gone Girl; Clint Eastwood, American Sniper.

Actor: Once more, a strong year, led by these five (and a few spoilers): Michael Keaton, Birdman; Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything; Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game; Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler; David Oyelowo, Selma; plus Steve Carell, Foxcatcher; Bradley Cooper, American Sniper; Ralph Fiennes, Budapest.

Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice; Reese Witherspoon, Wild; Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl; Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything; Jennifer Aniston, Cake; plus Emily Blunt, Into the Woods; Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night; Amy Adams, Big Eyes.

Supporting Actor: A great category, led by: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash; Edward Norton, Birdman; Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher; Ethan Hawke, Boyhood; with the final spot a toss up for Tom Wilkinson, Selma; Raz Ahmed, Nightcrawler; Robert Duvall, The Judge; and Miyavi, Unbroken.

Supporting Actress: Not a very deep bench, but the likely nominees were all excellent: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood; Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game; Emma Stone, Birdman; Laura Dern, Wild; Meryl Streep, Into the Woods; Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year; and Rene Russo, Nightcrawler.

I’ll post the actual nominees here Thursday morning!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oscar recap: Winners and losers onstage and the red carpet

McConaughey rocked a white dinner jacket.Gravity apparently lacked gravitas last night, for while the special effects extravaganza won the most Oscars — seven in all, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron — best picture went to the slavery biopic 12 Years a Slave, giving Brad Pitt his first Oscar … as a producer. Director-coproducer Steve McQueen also made history as the first black man to win a best picture Oscar. It was a close one — 12 Years and Gravity were my No. 1 and No. 2 film, respectively, of 2013.

This was a weird repeat of last year, when best picture winner Argo took three awards, but not the most awards, with Life of Pi taking, interesting, four of the same Gravity won (director, special effects, score and cinematography). So far, no Oscar for best picture has ever gone to a film released in 3-D or IMAX format.

The other big winner of the night was Dallas Buyers Club, which won three of its six nominations, including best actor to native Texan Matthew McConaughey and best supporting actor to Jared Leto. Cate Blanchett, as predicted, won best actress for the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine. Overall, it was a fairly predictable lineup of winners. (Strangely, five of the best picture nominees, including three nominated for best director, walked away entirely empty-handed.)

But it wasn’t just on the stage but on the red carpet that we saw the winners and losers. Our fashion guy J. Denton Bricker weighs in below with his best- and worst-dressed awards:

Denton’s best dressed:

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Blanchett, who won the entire awards season on the red carpet

Cate Blanchett — The best actress winner won again for her fashion choices, as she did throughout award season. Her fabulous nude dress adorned with ice/diamonds/crystals looked like something out of Frozen via Giorgio Armani. It was heavy but it looked so light and the chandelier earrings were a perfect balance. The girl worked those snowballs hard.

Lupita Nyong’o — The supporting actress winner wore an amazing yet simple duck-egg-blue dress, with a silver headband to make it looks all the more like a fierce Roman lady. Her acceptance speech was adorable and inspiring.

Charlize Theron — The prior Oscar winner looked divine and polished in a black gown by Dior that accentuates her curves in all the right way. The light straps give the illusion of strapless which give it a needed lightness on top.

JENNIFER LAWRENCE

Jennifer Lawrence, the lady in red.

Jennifer Lawrence — Last year’s best actress is becoming a fall expert as she fell over an orange cone getting out of the car; what a way to make an entrance and of course Ellen teased her about it. She looked gorgeous in bold, strapless red Christian Dior with blown back hair and simple accessories. She also wore a necklace that drapes in the back — she is working that trend.

Kate Hudson — She has laid the foundation for a comeback with this startling beautiful and fabulous, shimmering silver frock. K-Hud is open for business.

Amy Adams — She donned a striking, deep blue ’50s-inspired Gucci Couture gown with tangerine earrings that popped.

Honorable mentions:

Kerry Washington — She glowed in a lavender gown by Jason Woo but her dark lipstick was a bit severe.

Angelina Jolie — She looked voluptuous in a metallic sheer combination form fitting dress that showed the perfect amount of skin.

Anne Hathaway — She dazzled in a sleek in black Gucci with a glittering jeweled top.

Meryl Streep — The Oscar legend wore a forgettable white/black ensemble with a glittering belt but let’s be real, she can wear whatever the hell she wants. She could wear a burlap sack and no one would blink. Meryl is winning.

PENELOPE CRUZ

Cruz-in’ for a bruisin’ in the fashion blogs.

Denton’s worst dressed:

Naomi Watts — She looked crisp and clean in a white dress by Calvin Klein though somehow I can’t help but picture white lint balls all over it.

Julia Roberts — The pretty woman wore an edgy black lace gown that was pretty but just wasn’t memorable.

Sally Hawkins — A nominee this year, she  looked like Diane Keaton from Father of the Bride, which was fine in 1990 but in 2014 looks ridiculous and way too big.

Penelope Cruz — She wore a wrinkled pale pink sheet cinched at the waist by a black bow and she struggled with it on the red carpet.

Lady Gaga — Three words: Gay Chrysler Building.

Jennifer Garner — This just didn’t work. I want to like it because I like her but I just don’t know if four different rows of silver fringe really belong at the Oscars. 

Leto, dressed as a man, was defiantly dapper.The Men:

Jared Leto — He kept it fresh with a white jacket with a wine colored bow tie. I love the ombre of his hair.

Matthew McConaughey — He handsomely coordinated with Leto, also wearing a white jacket but was “dirty but in a good way,” as Ellen quipped.

Joseph Gordon Levitt — He was really dapper in a black form fitting tux complete with bow tie.

Chris Hemsworth — Last but not least, Thor rocked a hot maroon jacket.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones